2020 is nearly over.
The year saw some of the most cataclysmic and disruptive events of the 21st century: a pandemic that drastically changed everyday life, an election that never seemed to dial down from a fever pitch, continuous disarray in Congress and Donald Trump’s White House that cost American lives, ecological disasters flaring up left and right, and, as a merciful distraction, celebrities behaving like complete idiots. There’s a reason “2020” has become cultural shorthand for “clusterfuck.”
At The Daily Beast, we try to bring you stories that cut through spin and bullshit to convey what those in power are really saying, to show what’s really going on. To that end, we’ve compiled 25 stories we published this year that captured the frenzy of 2020. We hope they offer you some joy in the twilight of this mad year.
The doctor Donald Trump Jr. said was a “must-watch” on COVID-19 also proclaimed that sex with demons was the cause of gynecological problems and that the government was led by “reptilians.”
The day of a private Senate Health Committee briefing on the vast danger of the new coronavirus—as Trump and others said everything would be fine—Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), the newest and richest member of the Senate, dumped millions in stock.
Rumors about Ellen DeGeneres’ mean-spiritedness behind closed doors have swirled unconfirmed for years. The coronavirus pandemic and newly emboldened former employees brought to light how downright cruel the “be kind” queen of daytime TV could really be.
He rebooted a famous abolitionist newspaper last year with celebrity endorsements and hundreds of thousands of dollars from hopeful readers. Not much came of the big to-do, and King hasn’t been able to give satisfying answers as to what he did with all that money ever since.
In July, a former military planner predicted the coronavirus pandemic would inflict disaster on the Lone Star State. And boy, was he right.
In June, The Daily Beast broke the news that the president’s niece planned to expose her uncle and reveal why she leaked his taxes to The New York Times.
“Despite all those ‘Unwanted Ivanka’ detractors, just like the building itself, she endures. In Ivanka’s words, such resilience is ‘awe inspiring.’ Others might call her seemingly ceaseless, free vacations (thinly) disguised as diplomacy, a horror scenario.”
In October, the billionaire News Corp. owner was privately predicting a landslide victory for Joe Biden even as Fox News was loudly trumpeting the president and spreading conspiracy theories. He was right, of course, but his own network would continue to maintain that Trump won long after a Biden victory was certified multiple times.
Like Rupert Murdoch, Trump’s closest confidants could see it coming before Nov. 3: just five of 16 people in Trump’s orbit who spoke to The Daily Beast gave Trump winning odds in the week leading up to the election.
The president may have left a trail of seething former staffers, but ‘Be Best’ anti-bullying champion Melania Trump has her own frenemies. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania’s former best friend and the planner of Trump’s inauguration, torched the first lady in a September memoir.
Molly Jong-Fast nailed him in April: “Trump tends to act out on women journalists when things aren’t going his way. And a brutal pandemic killing 45,000 Americans in just over a month followed by a crash of his beloved Dow is a case of things not going Trump’s way in a big way.”
At the last royal event before Meghan Markle and Prince Harry officially stepped down, the other members of the House of Windsor didn’t signal reconciliation and forgiveness to the public. Quite the contrary, in fact: “It was an excruciating ignore-a-thon, a masterclass of social distancing.”
Though Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) said that criticism of his rabid online fanbase was unfounded, unfair, and possibly the work of Russian trolls, one staffer’s crass tweets about Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) appearance and Pete Buttigieg’s sexual orientation— “what happens when the therapist botches the conversion”—showed that the toxicity came from within.
When Gabriel Fernandez was rushed to the hospital with black eyes, a burned throat, a chest covered in bruises, and a mother attributing his injuries to a “fall,” doctors and law enforcement knew something was amiss. The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez paints an unflinching portrait of sadistic homophobia.
The South has done its best to rewrite the story of the Civil War with a romanticized “Lost Cause” narrative. Enter the unlikeliest champion of history: Leonardo DiCaprio, who produced one of the year’s unexpectedly great pieces of TV, Grant, which took no prisoners in portraying the evils of slavery and the heroism of the 18th president of the United States.
Even before the first lockdown order went into effect in the United States, doctors across the country told The Daily Beast how bad things were about to get. Then, as now, the nation’s response to the pandemic was woefully lacking.
The Christian Right paid big bucks to facilitate Norma McCorvey’s late-in-life conversion to ex-gay anti-abortion advocate, she revealed in the searing documentary AKA Jane Roe. The admission undermines decades of conservative weaponization of her story.
When Snoop Dogg attacked Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King to defend Bill Cosby, he wasn’t just making misguided statements. He was playing into an age-old dynamic: “The misogynistic conspiracy theory directed specifically against Black women who refuse to make it their life’s work to defend Black men at any cost.”
When a desperate call for ventilators and medical protective equipment was answered by Russia in March, both the governor of New York and the State Department were stunned. The source? The Russian Direct Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund under sanctions. The White House connection? Jared Kushner, of course.
In 2008, the Minneapolis officer who would later be charged with murder for kneeling on a Black man’s neck barged into the home of another Black man, beat him, and shot him at close range. The aggressive response left Ira Toles with a permanent hole in his stomach.
A June meeting involving the CEO of Fox News Media, the company’s president, its VP of diversity, and Black Fox employees went as badly as you’d expect. The network had just aired a graphic connecting the killings of Black men to stock market gains, and staff used the opportunity to go off on their bosses about rampant racism at the company and offensive remarks from primetime talent.
When the coronavirus pandemic began, cruise ships were early and deadly epicenters. Most travelers avoided them like the plague, and all voyages would eventually come to a halt. In that thin, grim window between the outbreaks and the forced closures, though, there were the deal hunters, who saw the risk of infection and death as one they were willing to take in order to get a low price.
In the wake of Bryant’s death in January, the public reeled over how to mourn a spectacular basketball player who was credibly accused of raping a 19-year-old. Perhaps the reconciling answer can be found in videos of Bryant courtside talking to his daughter Gianna, who died with her father. She dreamed of playing basketball for UConn.
Members and employees of the National Organization for Women say that the United States’ oldest and most famous feminist organization has a problem with racism it can’t even confront, much less fix. NOW’s president resigned in August after The Daily Beast broke the news of the allegations.
As the world watched the disaster of COVID-19 unfold with mounting horror, some people diagnosed with anxiety and depression said their symptoms had, against all odds, ameliorated. “If you’re a master dissociater, you’re going to be in a better place...You have, basically, a toolbox of how not to have to deal with all the scary feelings,” one psychologist explained.